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Published 10 June 2024 5 min read
England Men's Senior Team

Josh Denzel previews the return of Lions' Den

Written by:

Adam Drury

The host discusses being an England fan, 'visionary' Gareth Southgate, and what he wants the show to provide

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Like Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka, Josh Denzel is heading to his third major tournament with England this summer.

But while Josh's duties are limited to off the field, he says being asked to present daily show Lions' Den from Germany still provides him with an enormous buzz.

The show will air on each day other than matchday, with a player appearing live to provide inside access to the Three Lions' camp as well as interacting with supporters and special guests.

The first edition is on at 2pm BST on Wednesday 12 June on England YouTube, Instagram and X channels – with most future episodes to take place at 2.30pm BST – and Josh can't wait to get started.

Josh Denzel and Bukayo Saka in 2022
Josh Denzel and Bukayo Saka in 2022

He said: "The excitement never dies.

"We want to show the real side of the boys. It can be hard at times to get to know players from five-minute interviews after matches and you don't really get the chance to connect. We want to find out more about them and allow them to be themselves.

"It's the bridge between fans and players and if I'm the person that can eke out some of the banter in camp and show fans behind the curtain then that's brilliant. The players are superstars these days and we want to see them having fun."

Like everyone watching at home, Josh is a lifelong England fan.

The first tournament he can remember is the 1998 World Cup in France and tournament fever has struck on a regular basis ever since.

He said: "As a kid, summer tournaments were the pinnacle of football, regardless of how your club was doing. We used to always talk about who was on the plane – so to actually be on it is so exciting.

"I remember we used to basically close off the street for England matches. We'd have tables lined up in the middle of the road and people would put their televisions in the window so we could all watch it. In 1998 it was always being set up before school and we'd be so excited all day about what was coming that afternoon and evening."

Josh Denzel with England manager Gareth Southgate
Josh Denzel with England manager Gareth Southgate

And while his view of tournament matches is now somewhat different, Josh speaks warmly about how lucky he is to have been welcomed as a member of the camp.

He said: "At the beginning of lockdown I got the opportunity to work with the guys at the FA and do a commercial window for a couple of little video features. I knew a few of the players and I think the content guys realised I had quite a decent rapport with the boys.

"There was a good vibe, so they asked me whether I'd be interested in taking on Lions' Den for EURO 2020. They'd done it in Russia in 2018 already so the concept was there but it grew and grew.

"They showed me the plans for the set they wanted to build and proposed a talk show throughout the camp. It wasn't even a question for me, it was a definite yes.

"It's been incredible to be part of camp. The camaraderie between everyone has been instilled by Gareth [Southgate]. He wants to make sure everything is right, he sits in on meetings about Lions' Den and he wants to make sure we have as good access as possible.

"He is a real visionary when it comes to this stuff. A lot of football people would be totally against having a full TV set in the middle of their carefully constructed camp but he encourages it.

Luke Shaw throws darts during Lions' Den in 2022
Luke Shaw throws darts during Lions' Den in 2022

"He's changed the entire viewpoint on the England squad. I've felt so much warmth. Genuinely, everybody is friends with each other and everybody is on the same level, from players with 50+ caps to members of staff who have never played or you would never normally hear from. Everybody is pulling in the same direction and it's incredible to be a part of.

"It is hard to fake that. And then you see the way they've been going on the pitch, the camaraderie shows. There is an understanding there."

Southgate's EUROs squad features several new faces who have impressed at club level and Josh sees it as his role to bring the best out of them on Lions' Den.

He said: "The guys who have come in have been incredible for their clubs and they're in there on form. We may not have seen much of them off the pitch and hopefully I can almost introduce them to England fans and give them a platform to show who they really are. Judging by their performances, they're going to be around for a long time."

And come matchday, it will be Josh's role to sit back and enjoy as the Three Lions aim to provide success for the country.

He said: "I believe with a mixture of those boys and the experienced faces that this is the year we can do it. The boys are confident, we have players who are real difference-makers. We've got a tough group but we have an incredible chance to do something special."